Lithuania’s Aleksandr Sorokin set a new world record for 24 hours at the 2021 UltraPark Weekend 24 Hour race in Poland on August 28 and 29, 2021. This to-be-confirmed world record for 24 hours is 309.400 kilometers (192.252 miles). This represents an improvement of almost six kilometers on what was previously thought to be almost-unbreakable 24-hour records set by Greek ultrarunning legend Yiannis Kouros of 303.506 kilometers (188.590 miles) on the track in 1997 and 290.221 kilometers (180.335 miles) on the road in 1998.
This 24-hour performance comes on the heels of setting numerous world records, including that for 100 miles, at a race in earlier in 2021. And before that, Sorokin won the 2019 IAU 24-Hour World Championships.
Enjoy this written interview with Sorokin the week after his performance. To learn more about him and his running background, read this interview from earlier in 2021.
iRunFar: What draws you to running these long distances on flat surfaces versus something like trail running?
Aleksandr Sorokin: Actually, I run only flat races. I tried the trail, but love only the flat. I love numbers, and I need to know speed, laps, and distance.
iRunFar: What inspired you to take on this new record, one that has become a thing of legend in ultrarunning over the years since it was set?
Sorokin: Twenty-four hours is my main running distance because, in my opinion, it’s the most interesting ultrarunning discipline. And the most incredible record was set here.
iRunFar: What kind of support crew did you have for the day?
Sorokin: Usually my brother goes with me and supports me, but this time he couldn’t go. So I took my father. And my coach lives in Poland, so he came too.
iRunFar: How did the day go, and how do you keep yourself engaged mentally for such a long period?
Sorokin: Twenty-four-hour running is very hard for the body and brain. But you train for this, you train for not stopping. And because it’s very long, you can’t run next week again afterward.
iRunFar: You improved your 24-hour performance by so much between the 2019 IAU 24-Hour World Championships where you ran 278.972 kilometers and this performance. What has allowed you to improve so much in that amount of time?
Sorokin: There are few main things. Every year my conditions, power, and training skills grow. The 279-kilometer performance was in 2019, and there is lot of time between then and now. The second, now I have a coach — a Polish guy named Sebastian Białobrzeski — who helps me with trainings. The third is, the COVID-19 pandemic helps me too, because I don’t work. My work is closed down, and I train like a professional. I eat, sleep, and run.
iRunFar: How did you plan your pacing for this performance? Did you pace yourself to set the world record?
Sorokin: After the spring race in Britain, when I beat the 100-mile and 12-hour world records, I thought that the 24-hour race can be reached. And so I began preparing for this race. Really, I was preparing for the 2021 IAU 24-Hour World Championships in Romania. When it was canceled, I chose this race in Poland. And yes, I ran for the world record.
iRunFar: Can you tell us about the final few hours of the race? Where it started to be clear that if you maintained your pace you would set a record? What were the challenges of the last few hours of running?
Sorokin: The final hours were the hardest. Until 21 hours in, I didn’t know if I could reach the world record or not. That’s because I had a few problems: my stomach didn’t want to take any meal and I was terribly tired. But after some hours, my stomach began to work. And I felt that the world record was in my pocket.
iRunFar: What did it feel like when you crossed the part of the race where you set a new world record and there was still almost a half hour of running to go? Did you feel proud or shocked? Or were you still focusing on going as far as you can for those 24 hours?
Sorokin: It’s good feelings when you see that the world record is in your hands. When I could see the 300-kilometer mark on the screen at the race, I knew that I had two more laps and I would break the world record. And then it was still almost 30 minutes of running left in the race. Those 30 minutes were my time to rewrite history! It was a great feeling!
RunFar: Do you see any other record-breaking in your future? Do you have other racing plans for this year?
Sorokin: For this year, probably no plans. I want to run the IAU 24-Hour World Championships again in the future, though. Also, I’m not ready for 48-hour racing yet, I am too young. I don’t want die young!
iRunFar: Do you have any running inspirations, people you look up to?
Sorokin: My first and main inspiration is Yiannis Kouros, the legend. Then some Lithuanian guys. And also Usain Bolt.
iRunFar: Congratulations and thank you!